Watching the NBA's annual swap meet

20090626_inq_gonzo26-x
At the NBA draft: Commissioner David Stern (shortest guy) with (from left) Davidson's Stephen Curry, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, Ricky Rubio of Spain, and Oklahoma's Blake Griffin.

You have to love the NBA draft. There's something about it that intoxicates the league's general managers and transforms them from otherwise prudent businessmen into wild wheeler-dealers. On draft day, every organization becomes a used car lot and every GM wants to cut you a great deal on a center with fading horsepower and lots of mileage.

The draft hasn't started yet, but there already have been a bunch of moves. Shaquille O'Neal is headed to Cleveland, Vince Carter is headed to Orlando, and three draft picks are headed from Portland to Dallas for the Mavericks' 22d overall selection.

Oh, and this is fun: The Knicks bought the 29th overall pick in the draft from the Lakers for $3 million. It seemed like such an effortless transaction - as if the Lakers were unloading a television or refrigerator. I wonder whether they put an ad on Craigslist.

If you're the owner of a bad club that no one cares about, why not sell all your picks for money and take a long vacation? Glen Taylor, owner of the Timberwolves - a team that started the night with an absurd four first-rounders - should head down to the Madison Square Garden floor right now to hunt for rubes. If the Lakers can collect a cool $3 mil for No. 29, Taylor could scalp his picks for a hell of a lot more. (A tip for Taylor: Start with Clippers owner Donald Sterling.)

If the rest of the night is even half as entertaining as the warm-up act, it should be an interesting evening.

7:39 p.m.: Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin just went No. 1 overall to the Clippers. Griffin and the Clippers executives seem fairly unmoved. Maybe that's because it was a foregone conclusion. Or maybe they watched ESPN's Clippers montage. It showed Clippers picks/busts and other memorable team moments.

Ever see footage of the Hindenburg burning and vanishing in a snap? It's sort of washed out and horrifying. Same thing as the Clippers montage.

8:04: The Minnesota Timberwolves just used the first of their many picks on Ricky Rubio at No. 5. No one is sure whether the 18-year-old Spaniard is worthy of being drafted that high - including the kid.

"The fifth notch is too high for me," Rubio said. Hmm, maybe the Spanish-to-English translation got jumbled in his head. At least he has a nice mop of hair. If basketball doesn't work out, he can pretend to be one of the Jonas Brothers and mooch off unsuspecting women.

8:15: Golden State picked Davidson bomber Stephen Curry at No. 7. So much for his playing in New York. Knicks fans are taking it well. Here's the sum of their collective thoughts: "Boooooo."

8:21: Poor Jordan Hill. The Arizona forward is now a New York Knick. He was taken right after Curry - eighth overall. Knicks fans are thrilled. Sounds like they're saying "oooooo."

8:22: Still booing.

8:26: ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy has decided to defend Hill: "I don't understand what [New York fans are] booing." Now they're booing Jeff Van a little.

Can you buy a New York fan at the Penn Station souvenir shop? I'd like to send one as a gift to my editors.

8:45: North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough was taken 13th by Indiana. The crowd is chanting "overrated." I love them more with each passing minute.

Meanwhile, ESPN is showing video of Hansbrough scrapping for loose balls, and there's blood running down his face. I wonder how long until they tell us he's a hard worker and a good competitor.

8:47: ESPN analyst Jay Bilas: "[Hansbrough is] an unbelievable competitor. I think it's been interesting, with all the talk about Tyler, work ethic and being a competitor have somehow become a dirty word."

9:09: The 76ers are on the clock. It's nice to see the old-school logo again.

9:10: Steve Kerr, the Suns' president of basketball operations, is on TV talking about stripping down his team for parts. Kerr said he's received calls about Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and others. I bet phone lines at the Suns' ticket office are burning up.

9:13: With the 17th pick, the Sixers nabbed the last, lonely face in the Green Room - UCLA guard Jrue Holiday. The analysts are claiming "he has a lot of upside," and his ESPN bio reads "must improve shooting." Perfect. That's what they say about all the Sixers. He'll fit right in.

9:44: Sacramento selected Omri Casspi with the 23d pick. The forward will be the first Israeli to play in the NBA. ESPN already is being awkward about it. "First of all," Fran Fraschilla said, "they better have good falafel in Sacramento, because they're going to need it for this guy."

10:22: The last pick of the first round is in. Christian Eyenga from Congo is going to Cleveland. If he's lucky, he might even get to stay there.

Not long ago, ESPN said Minnesota will ship its third pick, North Carolina guard Ty Lawson, to Denver. And the Knicks reportedly sent one expiring contract (Quentin Richardson) to Memphis for a different expiring contract (Darko Milicic).

Ever participate in a Yankee Swap around the holidays? It's a game in which you either pick a wrapped gift or take one that someone else already has pulled out of the pile. Everyone gets that option, and gifts change hands until all parties are annoyed and thoroughly confused about what just happened.

That's NBA draft day. It's one big Yankee Swap.

 


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

More Coverage